Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government continues to support smoking in many ways; tobacco companies try to increase their sales and people keep choosing to smoke as a lifestyle choice, and they’re taking up the habit when they’re younger and younger.

An article published on the Infomed website lists the health risks associated with smoking:

  • Cancer, in its many forms such as lung, mouth, throat (pharynx and larynx), oesophageal, stomach, pancreas, cervical, kidney and bladder cancer.
  • Respiratory disease such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Heart disease such as coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Cerebrovascular disease, such as brain aneurysms, circulatory problems and high blood pressure.

According to the 2015 Annual Health Report, these are also the most frequent and deadliest diseases in Cuba: heart disease, respiratory disease, high blood pressure and cancer. You don’t have to be a genius to understand that smoking is slowly killing us.

However, nothing changes.

“How can you smoke when our own father died of lung cancer? Aren’t you scared?” I asked my brother.  To my surprise, he took his time to answer: “Yes, when I think about it I am scared, but I’m so irresponsible.”

My brother smokes nearly 30 cigarettes a day, in spite of his fear and his family being dead against it.

A lot of people consider smoking an act of freedom, a personal decision that other people have to respect. It’s interesting to see that this same argument can be used to both justify it and to combat it. However, bearing in mind I’m one of the ones who want to eradicate smoking off of the face of the earth, I’m going to focus on the argument against.

Of course, choosing what you do in life is freedom, choosing what you most like or what best suits you. However, every personal decision comes with great responsibility. That’s why, it pained me to say to my brother that he’s not only being irresponsible with himself but with the lives of all those who surround him. Smoking isn’t a private act that doesn’t have consequences on other people; on the contrary.

According to the WHO, “smoking kills approximately 6 million people a year: 5 million are smokers and over 600,000 people are passive smokers who’ve been exposed to secondhand smoke.”

Therefore, you’re free to smoke if you don’t care about filling your lungs with tar and that it causes you respiratory diseases, or that this evil habit gives you some kind of cancer. But, you could be more aware of the fact that smoke from your cigarette affects everyone around you too. The “innocent” act of lighting up has its consequences: smoke from a cigarette contains over 4000 different components, many of which are considered toxic, carcinogens or potential carcinogens.

The tobacco industry needs a lot of paper to roll up each and every cigarette found in their packets. The paper and cellulose acetate they use in filters aren’t biodegradable, and therefore, take years to disappear and add to the amount of solid waste we have on the planet. Furthermore, just one cigarette butt is enough to contaminate up to 50 liters of water; fish, birds and any other animals that come into contact with this water can die.

Smoking produces pollution, which in turn contributes to climate change, and can cause forest fires (out of negligence). No-smoking regulations put into effect in enclosed areas don’t always fix the problem, as gas emissions and toxic air pollutants escape into the atmosphere beyond where the cigarette was originally lit up.

That’s why I have no other option but to think: we’ve lost all respect for life. Even us non-smokers are accomplices in this disaster when, for example, we allow adults to sell cigarettes to minors – initiating them early on in the world of smoking – and we justify it by saying that “every one of us has to struggle to get by” or “it’s up to the parents to stop them.” When we accept that they sell cigarettes to pregnant women knowing that it can directly affect and harm the fetus that is developing. It’s not just about having our doctors hands’ smelling bad whilst they check us over, or that cigarette smoke bothers us when we’re at the bakery, the shop or on the bus, etc.; but about the fact that it’s slowly killing all of us, humans and the planet.

We are accomplices because we don’t band together to demand the Government to adopt a smoking ban in Cuba.

Sure, at this time, if we were to hold a referendum, I don’t know who would take the majority. To smoke or not to smoke. That is the question.

humo-cigarro


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

13 thoughts on “In Cuba, to Smoke or Not to Smoke…

  • In no way does lung cancer “appear to be independent of smoking tobacco.” Smoking IS the # 1 cause of lung cancer, it does not merely ‘appear’ to be so. And even though “the rate of lung cancer has increased among non-smokers,” it is still nowhere near the rate of lung cancer among smokers.
    However, in Cuba the danger of second-hand smoke, is probably negligible since most homes and offices are not as insulated as they tend to be in colder climates or in parts of the world, e.g. in the southern parts of the USA, where the prevalent use of air conditioning makes people insulate their living spaces.
    But don’t let yourselves be fooled by Vinny Gracchus’s attempt at misdirection: Smoking cigarettes kills, but it kills primarily the smokers themselves – in Cuba as well as in the rest of the world.

  • Cuban cigarette packages already have “frightening warnings about the consequences” of smoking from the Ministry of Health (MinSap). Here are some examples from packages of “Hollywood”:
    “¿Quieres una vida saludable?,
    ¡No fumes!”

    “Tu aire y el mio es el mismo,
    ¡Respetalo!”

    “¡Detente!
    Tus hijos están fumando también.”

    All medical doctors in Cuba also warn against smoking.

  • Why do such a high percentage of smokers develop lung cancer in comparison with the non-smokers?
    Why do Cardiac specialists advise patients not to smoke?
    Are the researches into smoking undertaken across the western world during the last fifty years just a ‘smoke screen’ and do you believe that smoking ought to be encouraged for the younger generation?
    As a non-smoker – I was involved in a sport at top level for some 17 seasons and so had to be very fit – I am not directly affected but I do object to being subjected to the fumes of tobacco by others. To me it stinks and makes me cough.

  • On SHS and lung cancer consider: “The average intake of toxic and genotoxic compounds due to ETS exposure is that low that it is difficult, if not impossible, to explain the increased risk of lung cancer as found in epidemiological studies. The uncertainty is further increased because the validity of epidemiological studies on passive smoking is limited severely by numerous bias and confounding factors which cannot be controlled for reliability. The question of whether or not ETS exposure is high enough to induce and/or promote the carcinogenic effects observed in epidemiological studies thus remains open, and the assumption of an increased risk of lung cancer due to ETS exposure is, at present, more a matter of opinion than of firm scientific evidence.” (See Adlkofer F. Lung cancer due to passive smoking–a review.Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2001 May;74(4):231-41.)

  • Lung cancer appears to be independent of smoking tobacco. Indeed while the rate of lung cancer appears to be greater among smokers, even Doll’s studies suggested a protective affect, The rate of lung cancer has increased among non-smokers. As for evidence to suggest second hand smoke has a deleterious effects, the studies I already provided suggest the answer is no. You might actually read them in their entirety rather than echo antismoking propaganda.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *